Vitamins are essential components for maintaining optimal health. There are two main groups of vitamins: fat-soluble vitamins and those soluble in water. Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) are absorbed by fat, while water-soluble vitamins (all other than these four) dissolve in water. The difference between the two is important, since it affects whether vitamins are stored in the body and how, whether or not ingesting them in excess or not in sufficient quantity can cause harm and more. Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body.
They must be replenished regularly through the diet. Any excess is quickly eliminated in the urine. Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C and vitamin B complex (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, folate, and cobalamin). Vitamin C is found in fresh fruits, including citrus and berries, as well as tomatoes and peppers.
B vitamins are found in a variety of foods, such as meat and dairy products. Fat-soluble vitamins are easily stored in fat after absorption. They are found more abundantly in high-fat foods and are better absorbed if eaten with fat. Excess fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the liver and fatty (adipose) tissues for future use. Over time, you can build up a dangerous amount of fat-soluble vitamins if you don't follow the daily intake limits set by the National Academy of Sciences. Vitamins play a vital role in many biochemical functions of the human body.
B vitamins act as cofactors in biochemical reactions and are vital for normal body growth and development, skin health, proper nerve and heart function, and red blood cell formation. Biotin helps release energy from carbohydrates and helps the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates in foods. Vitamin B6 helps with protein metabolism, red blood cell formation and behaves like an antioxidant molecule. Thiamine helps release energy from food, promotes normal appetite, and plays a role in muscle contraction and conduction of nerve signals.
Vitamin B12 helps the formation of genetic material, the production of normal red blood cells and the maintenance of the nervous system. Thanks to its antioxidant activity, studies suggest that vitamin C may help prevent or delay the development of certain types of cancer, heart disease and other diseases in which oxidative stress plays a causal role. Despite being a water-soluble vitamin that the body excretes when it is in excess, overdoses of vitamin C increase the risk of adverse health effects, such as kidney stones, diarrhea, rebound scurvy and increased oxidative damage. A general lack of water-soluble vitamins is rare in North America, although it can occur in alcohol use disorder, malabsorption syndromes, strict veganism, and states of malnutrition. It explains why your body needs them, as well as the possibility that you may be taking too many of these vitamins. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking or plan to take these vitamins to ensure that you stay within a safe daily consumption range. Regular intake is required to avoid deficiency due to the transient nature of water-soluble vitamins.
Water-soluble vitamins rarely build up to toxic levels but certain types can cause diarrhea if taken in excess. Water-soluble vitamins must be replenished regularly through the diet to ensure that your body stays nutritionally balanced naturally.